21 days of prayer and fasting - Galatians 4
Do you want to be an heir or an employee/slave? Paul is using a common experience of life in New Testament times. Some were wealthy enough to run a household business as farmers or craftsmen, or maybe even as merchants or major landowners. Many others were their employees or slaves (slavery in New Testament times was often a more comfortable and settled life than being a peasant farmer, so the word ‘employee’ gives the idea better).
Paul urges the Galatians to live as free people. Trying to keep the Law by human effort is slavery. But when we are born again we are redeemed from slavery and made into sons and heirs (verse 5). Like ‘slavery’ the word ‘adoption’ had different implications in New Testament times. In the Roman empire, adoption was often not because of a lack of natural parents but because a wealthy man was willing to include someone among his heirs to carry on his name. So it was a great honour.
He goes on to explain more of the deliverance achieved by Jesus on the Cross. We used to be slaves to the ‘elementary principles’ or demonic spiritual forces at work in the world. But we were set free. Free … at least until the Galatians started to go back to living by rules. They are trying to live by things we can ‘see’ with our minds instead of by faith in God, that would enable them to see the unseen heavenly realities.
How like us, though!
Do those who are spiritual fathers and mothers to us long, like Paul, for Christ to be formed in us (verse 19)? Or are we seeing the unseen spiritual realities by faith?
From verse 21 Paul gives us insight into how to read the Old Testament. The stories in the Old Testament are history - an account of what happened. They include “the good, the bad and the ugly!” But they are also symbolic pictures that point to a spiritual reality. The interpretation comes clear only if we read the Old Testament from the perspective of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
The city of Jerusalem in the Old Testament is a picture to us of the Jerusalem above, the heavenly city, which Paul says is our mother. In other words, when we are born again we become citizens of heaven (see Phil 3:20).
Paul’s point is simply that we are set free so let’s live as free people, but he makes it in a way that addresses the Jewish background of those legalistic ‘Christians’ who have come into Galatia. And in doing so he points clearly to a key principle of interpretation.
So the question is - slave or free?